Weekend in Prague

Prague is a romantic city – I think it beats Paris, even. Still, I’m away on Valentine’s Day again so it’s not as romantic for me as it could be.

Still, Old Prague is so big. Many English cities have an ancient core, but Prague’s is enormous, partly because it was not bombed in the World War.

I have taken a hundred or so pictures, but you’ll get bored if I put them all up here, so here are a few and I’ll do more when I get home.

The picture below is my hotel room on the first floor. I stayed at the Hotel Century Old Prague since this time I’m on my own and unlike some of my business colleagues I prefer the old traditional hotels to the over-priced Americana of the Hilton.

Hotel Window
My hotel window (over the angels) in Prague

Yesterday, since I finally got daylight time since it is the weekend, I went for a long walk through Old Prague. It is huge. Unlike British cities, many of which have an old centre, like York, it isn’t confined to a small district but is enough for a couple of days of walking around, with lots of little alleys, cobbled streets and wider boulevards.

I put this on FaceBook/Twitter already but it seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day. One of many thousands of statues in various nooks and crannies on buildings throughout Prague.

Man and Deer statue
Man and Deer statue

This time, I made my way over towards the Charles Bridge, a well-known landmark because it is the oldest bridge.

Charles Bridge Prague
Charles Bridge Prague

At the entrance to the bridge, on the left, is Charles.

King Charles at his bridge
King Charles at his bridge

If you face to the left, you can see across the River Vltava towards Prague Castle at the top of the hill. Apart from the ubiquitous pigeons, the birds are the only ones I have seen in Prague.
As you can see, the bridge is covered with statues, mostly to religious figures.

Charles Bridge and Prague Castle
Charles Bridge and Prague Castle

Such as this one

Statue on Charles Bridge
Statue on Charles Bridge

Just across the bridge, there is a church.  It’s no wonder St Nick can afford to pay those elves. His church is not short of gold. Every square centimetre is decorated inside.

St Nicholas
St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas
Inside St Nicholas 2
Inside St Nicholas 2

Since it was Valentine’s Day, there was a parade coming down from the castle.  Here are a few shots from it.  I have video so you can hear the jazz band but it will have to wait until I get home to post it because I don’t know how to reduce the size from this machine.

Valentine Parade 1
Valentine Parade 1
Valentine Parade 2
Valentine Parade 2
Valentine Parade 3
Valentine Parade 3

There didn’t seem to be any set theme and the crowd just mingled with the parade.  Everyone (me included) was having a lot of fun to the music of a traditional jazz band.

Then, finally, the castle.  It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic and the government and embassies are mostly in included or adjacent buildings.

Gates to Prague Castle
Gates to Prague Castle

A closer view of the statues over the gates: just to show you that invaders or people without tickets will not be treated kindly.

Gates to Prague Castle 2
Gates to Prague Castle 2

Although the actual guards (at least in February) wear more clothing.

Guard at Prague Castle
Guard at Prague Castle

In case of siege, you can pray for help:

Castle Cathedral - St Vitus
Castle Cathedral – St Vitus

Those are magnificent flying buttresses.  And in case St. Vitus is not enough, there’s always St. George, across the plaza.  Each designed to put poor old St. Nicholas above in the shade.

Castle Church- St George
Castle Church- St George

Just in case you think Christian churches get all the glory in Prague, the synagogue’s are non-too-shabby:

Unfortunately, the street is very narrow (but notice the Star-of-David motif set in the sidewalk) so it’s hard to get a good picture – I took several so I hope when I get home I can do some Photoshop magic to stick together and fix perspective.

Synagogue in Prague - centre
Synagogue in Prague – centre
Synagogue in Prague - street
Synagogue in Prague – street

 

Well, that’s all I have time for now as I’m getting hungry.  I have a few more for when I get home, next weekend, but you should have a good sense by now that Prague is a good place to visit if you get the chance.

Christmas in Prague

Pictures of Prague taken the week before Christmas, on my last trip there.  Prague has hundreds of churches so you expect to see some angels around Christmas time and I was not disappointed.  Apparently, they eat in restaurants like the rest of us.

Angels in Prague
Angels in Prague

There were more secular but still unusual people in my hotel

 

Prague Hilton lobby - Inhabitants
Prague Hilton lobby – Inhabitants

I fit right in.

The lobby was dressed up for the season.

Prague Hilton lobby - Christmas
Prague Hilton lobby – Christmas

You can tell I was on a business trip, as I don’t stay at fancy places like this on my own nickel.
This is the outside of the hotel:

Prague Hilton
Prague Hilton

Even on my own nickel, however, I could eat at extremely fancy places. A decent meal at the Imperial Hotel Café is only $25-$30, including a locally brewed beer special. I had duck one time and wild boar another. Game is offered in most Czech-style restaurants.

Imperial Café, Prague
Imperial Café, Prague
Detail, Imperial Café, Prague
Detail, Imperial Café, Prague

Even the washrooms at the Imperial are totally over-the-top, or is that “over the tap”?

Washroom taps, Imperial Café, Prague
Washroom taps, Imperial Café, Prague

There is a huge outdoor market with permanent stalls. It isn’t just in one market square, there are stalls all over.

Market 2, Prague
Market 2, Prague
Market 4, Prague
Market 4, Prague
Market square, Prague
Market square, Prague

I didn’t quite figure out the purpose of the illuminated “bridge” which crowds of people were walking over, unless it was just to give a view of the lights in the market.

Market with bridge, Prague
Market with bridge, Prague

Those with a greater head for heights, the patience to stand in line and hunger could go up the tower by the astronomical clock (see below) and dine. The picture is a bit fuzzy as it was dark, but the lit area is populated by people at tables:

Tower restaurant, Prague
Bell Tower restaurant, Prague

The tree in the centre of the market was a big feature:

Christmas Tree, Prague
Christmas Tree, Prague

It wasn’t too cold, by Ontario standards – about freezing.  Still, you need something to warm you up and the stalls sold all kinds of food and drink, alcoholic and otherwise, so I got myself a small hot mead and that warmed me up instantly.

Selfie with mead, Prague
Selfie with mead, Prague

 

Just around the corner was the famous astronomical clock, one of the world’s oldest.

Astronomical clock, Prague
Astronomical clock, Prague

Although “Christmas” was the main theme, other celebrations were also in progress:

Chanuka candle at the Prague Chabad centre
Chanuka candle at the Prague Chabad centre

Still, there is an overwhelming collection of christian churches in Prague, but I didn’t have time to go inside any, but perhaps next time as Google images show some extremely impressive interiors. Here are some exteriors.

St Agnes Convent - Prague
St Agnes Convent – Prague
St Agnes Convent 2 - Prague
St Agnes Convent 2 – Prague
Statue at St Agnes Convent - Prague
Statue at St Agnes Convent – Prague

The statue didn’t have a description – it looked like it was being restored as it was standing on wooden supports on top of a stone block.

St Peters, Prague
St Peters, Prague
Clock Tower by St Peters, Prague
Clock Tower by St Peters, Prague

On the secular side again, there are many magnificent buildings in Prague:

Concert Hall, Prague
Concert Hall, Prague

The Hotel Paris also has a magnificent Sarah Bernhardt restaurant, decorated as much as the Imperial.  I didn’t go in, will have to check prices for next time.

Hotel Paris, Prague
Hotel Paris, Prague

I don’t know the origin of this building but it seemed like it was just used for offices now.  They don’t decorate buildings like this any more.

Office building, Hilton
Office building, Hilton

The Palladium has now been converted into a mall.  Inside, it looks like any other shopping mall.

Palladium, Prague
Palladium, Prague

Looking across the river you can see Prague Castle. I didn’t have time to go across so all I saw was what you see in these pictures. (I only had about 4 hours in daylight to see what I could.  I’m supposed to have a weekend next time so maybe I’ll see more).

River Vltava - Prague
River Vltava – Prague
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

Comet hunting

The problem with clear nights, they are cold nights.  But not to be deterred I took my best chance to see Comet Lovejoy.

I got a double reward because not only did I finally find the comet, I also saw a very bright meteor with a tail of its own.

The comet took binoculars and even after I found it I could not see with naked eye as it is too fuzzy, but it was worth getting dressed up and freezing.  Still, too cold to be bothered setting up a telescope.

Here’s my January astronomy outfit.

January astronomy outfit
January astronomy outfit

The English Lake District – Three Shires

The English Lake District is still my favourite place, even though I’ve spent lots of times in the Rockies and other mountainous regions, probably just because I spent so much time there in my teens and very early twenties.  Although the fells barely count as mountains, somehow their more human size makes them more appealing as you go “fell walking” rather than “mountain climbing”.  (Some go “fell running” but that never appealed as it detracts from close observation, though I did do the odd bit of scree running).

“Three Shires” were the old counties of Lancashire (where I grew up), Westmorland and Cumberland until Thatcher reorganized the English counties and turned the Lakes into Cumbria.  However, the Three Shires Inn is still near the spot where the traditional counties met.  I celebrated my 19th birthday there with a couple of carloads of friends and visited many times as a destination from hiking trips.  You don’t get that in the Rockies .

The Three Shires
The Three Shires

Here is a picture from one such trip with my friend Steve.

Three Shires c. 1970
Three Shires c. 1970

The pub is in the Langdales (dale=valley, plural because there are two valleys, Great and Little Langdale).  Here is a picture looking up the valley.

Great Langdale
Great Langdale

Out from the end of Little Langdale is a very steep road called Wrynose Pass. You have to go over the pass to get to the actual meeting of the counties, at Wrynose Bottom.  To get from the Bottom, you can either go down the Duddon Valley, the only valley that has no lake.  Or, you can go west over Hardknott pass, the steepest road in England. You can see it snaking over the hills on the far right of the picture.

Wrynose Bottom
Wrynose Bottom

Or, closer up in the next picture.

Hardknott pass
Hardknott pass

Hardknott is famous for its Roman fort over the top.  The Romans were famous for their straight roads but I suspect even they did switchbacks to get over the pass.  I didn’t stop to take pictures this time as there wasn’t much daylight left so I took this next one and then headed over to Wastwater.

From the top of Hardknott pass
From the top of Hardknott pass

Wastwater is the deepest lake in England, with steep screes leading from the fells on the right, down into the water.  This view is looking back east towards the Langdales. At some time or another I have been up all these hills.

Wastwater
Wastwater

From my December 2014 trip to England.  Almost finished posting the better pictures from it, then a few from Czech republic and I will be back to real-time blogging.